American Composers Orchestra Announces 2022 EarShot Readings Commission For Elijah Daniel Smith

By: Sep. 01, 2022
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American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announces that composer Elijah Daniel Smith is the recipient of its 2022 EarShot Readings Commission, supported by Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting. Smith was selected for the commission from seven participants in ACO's EarShot Readings (formerly Underwood New Music Readings) held in June in New York - one of the most coveted opportunities for emerging composers in the United States. He will write a new work for ACO, to be premiered in a future season.

Praised by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a "rising star" composer Smith (b. 1995) is quickly establishing himself as one of today's leading young composers. His music, which has been described as "an extended flirtation with chaos" (Chicago Tribune), ranges from orchestral compositions to multimedia and interdisciplinary collaborations. His affinity for dense and complex textures, rhythmic ambiguity and fluidity, and rich gravitational harmonies shines through in all of his creations.

Smith's music has been premiered and performed by world-renowned ensembles such as The Chicago Symphony Orchestra for MusicNOW, Mivos Quartet, Sō Percussion, Sandbox Percussion, Contemporaneous, ~Nois, Ensemble Linea, Ecce Ensemble, Fuse Quartet, Earspace, and the Peabody Symphony Orchestra. Smith is currently pursuing his PhD in Music Composition at Princeton University after earning a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Composition from the Boston Conservatory in 2017, and a Master of Music degree in Music Composition from the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University in 2020.

His piece Wraith Weight was read by ACO at the EarShot Readings in June. Smith writes of that work, "Wraith Weight explores the idea of sonic afterimages by blurring and distorting pitch centers, rhythmic centers, and varying levels of harmonic clarity."

"Elijah first caught my attention when he collaborated with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in November of 2021, before I joined the ACO team," says Garrett McQueen, ACO Director of Artist Equity. "Getting to meet him during ACO's 2022 EarShot Readings was an honor, and I'm looking forward to our continued collaborations. The music that Elijah creates is a perfect example of what I believe our organization is looking for as we continue to explore and platform the rich diversity of sound and experiences that help all of us at ACO continue the work of codifying a uniquely American orchestral ecosystem."

Smith says, "I'm elated to be working with the fantastic folks at ACO, and to be working with top tier musicians to really dig into some lesser-explored orchestral possibilities. I'm very interested in translating ideas and techniques from other art forms into musical concepts, and I'm hoping to explore some of those that lie at a crossroads between experimental poetry and visual arts."

Jessie Montgomery was one of the mentor composers during ACO's EarShot Readings. She says, "Elijah Daniel Smith has the rare gift of distinction and clarity in his compositional voice that leaves you inspired and wanting to hear more. Thank you to ACO and EarShot for providing essential opportunities for composers on the rise!"

This year, seven of the nation's most promising composers in the early stages of their professional careers were selected from over 200 submissions to participate in ACO's EarShot Readings. Tommy Dougherty, Adeliia Faizullina, Patrick Holcomb, Elijah Daniel Smith, Will Stackpole, Yuting Tan, and Yuqin ("Strucky") Yi represented a broad spectrum of musical backgrounds and sound worlds. Feedback sessions with ACO Music Director Emeritus George Manahan, ACO players, mentor composers, and ACO's directors provided crucial artistic, technical, and conceptual assistance. In addition to Jessie Montgomery, this year's mentor composers were ACO Artistic Director Derek Bermel and Jonathan Bailey Holland. Each composer participating in the Readings received rehearsals, a reading, and a digital recording of his or her work. In addition, participants attend a series of online Professional Development Sessions which covered topics including creative collaboration, self-publishing for composers, fundraising, and orchestral commissions and contracting.

Now encompassing all of American Composers Orchestra's composer advancement initiatives, EarShot is the first ongoing, systematic program for developing relationships between composers and orchestras on the national level. Through orchestral readings, CoLABoratory fellowships, consortium commissions, and professional development, EarShot ensures a vibrant musical future by investing in creativity today.

EarShot Readings, operated in partnership with the American Composers Forum, New Music USA, and the League of American Orchestras, provide professional working experiences with orchestras from every region of the country. Over the last 25 years, EarShot has advanced the careers of more than 275 composers. Alumni include some of the most visible artists in the field: Jesse Montgomery, Carlos Simon, Courtney Bryan, Jennifer Higdon, and more. Over half of EarShot composers report that they have received a commission or performance as a direct result of their EarShot Reading, and many have gone on to win every major composition award including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts & Letters, and Rome Prizes. Orchestras around the globe have commissioned and performed hundreds of works by ACO alumni.

About the 2022 ACO EarShot Readings Participating Composers and their Works

Tommy Dougherty (b. 1990) - Restrung

Composer and violinist Tommy Dougherty is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is a composer of orchestral, chamber, and solo works. Over the past several years, his music has been performed by the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra, Modern Violin Ensemble (MoVE), Alarm Will Sound, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and Kinetic Ensemble. In 2019, he was the recipient of the ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award for his orchestra piece Restrung, and in 2016 and 2017, two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Awards. In 2018, Modern Violin Ensemble premiered Extraordinary Instruments, a violin quartet that aims to bring awareness to issues of gun culture in the United States. Dougherty received his bachelor's degrees in both composition and violin performance from the Eastman School of Music and his Master of Music degree in composition from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. He completed his DMA in composition at the USC Thornton School of Music where he studied privately with Andrew Norman and Sean Friar.

Of his piece Restrung, Dougherty writes, "Being a small part of a greater whole in a string section is exhilarating to me as a performer, yet I find that in today's orchestra, where hundreds of violinists appear for an audition to compete for one chair, the audience rarely has the opportunity to hear each individual voice. Restrung is my first orchestral piece where the various string techniques and behaviors that I've developed over the past several years interact with the other families of the orchestra."

Adeliia Faizullina (b.1988) - Bolghar

Adeliia Faizullina is a Tatar composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and quray player. As a composer, she explores cutting-edge vocal colors and paints delicate and vibrant atmospheres inspired by the music and poetry of Tatar folklore. The Washington Post has praised her compositions as "vast and varied, encompassing memory and imagination." Her recent commissions include works for Jennifer Koh, the Tesla Quartet, Johnny Gandelsman, and the Metropolis Ensemble. Her works have also been performed by the Seattle Symphony, cellist Ashley Bathgate, the Del Sol Quartet, and Duo Cortona. She won the Seattle Symphony Celebrate Asia Competition in 2019, she won first prize in the Radio Orpheus Young Composers Competition in Moscow in 2018. Faizullina was a guest artist at Play On Philly in 2021, and is a member of Composing Earth 2022-2023, by the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music. She was one of seven composers to be selected for the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute in 2022. Faizullina received her BM in Voice in Kazan, Russia, and BM in Music Composition in Gnessins Russian Academy of Music. She holds an MM in Music Composition from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Music & Multimedia Composition at Brown University.

Faizullina's piece is influenced by her recent visit to Bolghar, for her sister's wedding. She writes, "Bolghar is an ancient city located in Tatarstan, Russia, from as early as the 8th Century, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. . . When I'm in Bolghar, I feel my identity more precisely. I hear its voice more distinctly. It awakens in me, feelings that I am not just myself - I am someone that comes from this culture, these older generations. . . Because Bolghar is incorporated so well with nature, I'm using all the possibilities where I can refer to the basic nature of the orchestral instruments. I base my harmonies on the overtones series. With strings, I use a lot of harmonics and open strings. With winds, I use the sound of air, but it's formed as a ritual: repeating patterns with slight differences."

Patrick Holcomb (b. 1996) - Persephone

Patrick Holcomb is a composer from Ocean View, Delaware who is currently based in Rochester, New York. Holcomb's recent compositional honors include a 2021 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a 2021 American Prize in Composition, a 2020 BMI Student Composer Award, the 2019/2021 Jon Vickers Film Scoring Award, and the 2019 Georgina Joshi Composition Commission Award. Holcomb completed his undergraduate studies at Ithaca College, from which he graduated top of his class in the School of Music with a BM in Composition in 2018. He also earned an MM in Composition and an MM in Music Scoring for Visual Media from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2021. He studied with Claude Baker, Eugene O'Brien, and Aaron Travers at Indiana University; with Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann, Evis Sammoutis, and Dana Wilson at Ithaca College; and with Mark Camphouse prior to beginning his college education. Holcomb is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition at the University of Rochester Eastman School of Music as a student of David Liptak and a recipient of the Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull University Fellowship from the University of Rochester.

Holcomb writes, "Persephone is a reinterpretation of the Greek myth of Persephone, the goddess who was abducted by Hades and subsequently forced to spend a portion of each year with him in the underworld. The work was born out of my attempt to imagine Persephone seeing her reflection in each of the six rivers visible from the underworld on her annual journey into Hades."

Will Stackpole (b. 1990) - Increment

Will Stackpole is a composer whose music has been called "lively" and possessing a "savage charm" by The New York Times. He began his musical career as an electric guitarist and recording engineer in Hoboken, New Jersey. He found himself driven to compose for the orchestra and quickly developed a vibrant compositional voice notable for its unique orchestration and quasi-tonal harmonic language. He continued his studies at The Juilliard School where he was the only ever three-time winner of the Juilliard Orchestra Competition. Stackpole's works have been played across the United States by many notable ensembles including the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the AMFS Conductor's Orchestra, the Davin Levin Duo, and the Juilliard Orchestra. He is also the host of the Adagio for Things podcast and co-founder of Red Dog Ensemble, a new music group focused on innovative concert works. Stackpole holds a B.A. in Music and Technology from Stevens Institute of Technology and an M.M. in Composition from the Juilliard School. He is currently a composition instructor and adjunct professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ and a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow at the Juilliard School where he is completing his dissertation on Steven Stucky's life and music.

Stackpole's piece Increment is written in response to today's changing vision of normality. He writes, "Seemingly small and incremental changes to our social contract are gradually wearing away at our perception of societal order. These changes can be so constant that our capacity for activism or outrage or even simple attention can be worn thin. If a people cannot remain vigilant against these steadily encroaching revisions to our way of life, the door is left open for our entire social contract to be demolished. In this piece I attempted to explore the experience of living through these steady and imperceptible changes."

Yuting Tan (b. 1994) - Ashes and Embers

Singaporean composer Yuting Tan writes music which explores the interaction of different sounds to form unique harmonies and textures. Her music has been recognized with numerous awards and has been performed in Singapore, the US, UK, Thailand, New Zealand, and Italy. Past collaborations include performances by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Peabody Symphony Orchestra, National Sawdust Ensemble, Tacet(i) Ensemble, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Empyrean Ensemble, ~Nois, Alarm Will Sound, Now Hear This, Unassisted Fold, and Ensemble Soundinitiative. Recent commissions include four set pieces for the National Piano and Violin Competition 2021 in Singapore and a piece for the Megalopolis Saxophone Orchestra as their composer-in-residence. Yuting also enjoys working with artists from other fields and creating music in collaboration with other art forms. In 2019, she performed her original live score for the USA premiere screening of Chinese film pioneer Shouju Zhu's 1925 film Stormy Night (Fengyu zhi ye). Yuting is currently pursuing a PhD in Music Composition at the University of Chicago on a full fellowship from the Division of the Humanities.

Yuting Tan writes of her new piece, "The flames burn into the night and sparks fly amidst the growing cloud of smoke. What is burning? There is a sense of wonder, awe, horror, and loss. In the morning, ashes and embers are all that is left."

Yuqin (Strucky) Yi (b. 1994) - Fetters

Yuqin (Strucky) Yi is a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist based in New York City. Influenced by a wide variety of music genres, his works aim for a crystallization not only of classical music but also of rock, jazz, and soul music. In addition to working in the commercial music industry, Yi has been involved with many classical and jazz events as a composer, orchestrater, and consultant. Selected for the NCPA's Young Composers Program Award in 2019, his works have been in China, the United States, and Europe. His method of composition - of works that are often literary in conception - reflects the fullness and possibility of contemporary music, freshly processing timbre, harmony, and rhythm to generate a philosophical narration of life experience. Yi held a Dual Degree of Bachelor in Music Performance and Finance from the South China University of Technology's School of Art. Later he received his Master of Music in classical composition at Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Marjorie Merryman, Damien Sneed, David Adamcyk, Miguel Zenon, Reiko Fueting, Marc Cary and Matthew Holman.

Yi writes, "People have various sorts of fetters, fetters of lust and passion, fetters of the limitation in knowledge, fetters of relationship, fetters of government, fetters of social environment, fetters of the times. . .Nevertheless, we can also keep a positive attitude under the burdens, and still be able to dance in life philosophically."

About American Composers Orchestra: Founded in 1977, American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, middle school through college composer education programs, and composer advancement programs to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders. ACO identifies and develops talent, performs established composers, champions those who are lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, reflecting gender, racial, ethnic, geographic, stylistic, and age diversity. To date, ACO has performed music by 800 American composers, including over 350 world premieres and newly commissioned works.

ACO offers an array of programs for emerging composers including its own annual EarShot Readings in New York City, which have served over 350 composers since their inception in 1991, and have been offered in partnership with orchestras across the country in collaboration with the League of American Orchestras, New Music USA and American Composers Forum since 2008. Readings composers have gone on to win every major composition award, including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Rome Prizes.

ACO has received numerous awards for its work, including those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra's outstanding contribution to American music. ASCAP has awarded ACO its annual prize for adventurous programming 35 times, singling out ACO as "the orchestra that has done the most for new American music in the United States." ACO received the inaugural MetLife Award for Excellence in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. Read more:


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